Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country that is less than half the size of California, is a nation that still today is recovering from a tragic civil war that claimed the lives of over 2 million people or one-third of its citizens in the early 1970s. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge embarked on a ruthless program to force its people to work on collective farms. Anyone in opposition, and all educated people – including teachers – were killed. Children were also taken from their parents and placed in forced labor camps. Factories, universities, and hospitals were closed, and all professionals were forced to leave the country or murdered.
Almost 40 years have passed since the end of the civil war in 1978. However, Cambodia still remains underdeveloped in the areas of health care, education and infrastructure development. The per capital income still remains comparatively low at approximately $1,025 USD (2016), and only 50% of the people have access to electricity.
JELA works in cooperation with Life With Dignity (LWD), a Cambodia-based NGO, to provide support in the areas of child education, health care, clean water, food nutrition, and solar lighting for individual households. As recently as 2016, JELA has built several one-room preschool buildings and constructed a water irrigation system providing water to a village with over 200 households.
Cambodia Volunteer Program
Since 2007, JELA has been active in sending groups of 6 – 8 individuals to help in painting a local school, as well as interacting with local children. Later in 2012, volunteers joined the mission of the Singapore Lutheran Church (Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC) partner and member of the Mekong Mission Forum)to repair a village school in the Konpong Chhnang District, north of Phnom Penh. JELA maintains an active volunteer sending program which helps people in need, while as the same time provides a valuable learning experience for Japanese volunteers.